Hard Hobbit to break: McKellen set for return as Gandalf
Back again? Ian McKellen as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings.
Sir Ian McKellen looks set to reprise his role as Gandalf in the long-awaited adaptation of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit.The Lord of the Rings actor all but confirmed he will wear the wizard's robes again in an email exchange with fans on his official website. Asked "Will you again be our Gandalf in The Hobbit now that the deal is settled?" McKellen answers: "Yes I will, if Peter Jackson and I have anything to do with it, he being the producer and me being, on the whole a very lucky actor."
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Sir Ian said last year he would be "very pleased" to portray Gandalf again, but at the time it was unsure whether an adaptation would see the light of day. Jackson and studio New Line were locked in a bitter feud over the earnings from the Lord of the Rings trilogy - preventing an adaptation of The Hobbit from going ahead. The battle has now been resolved and two films based on The Hobbit are planned, with Peter Jackson serving as executive producer.
A formal deal with McKellen has yet to be signed, but filming is set to begin next year. In the email exchange, a fan asks the 68-year-old actor: "Have you been approached yet by Peter Jackson or anyone else about reprising your wonderful role as Gandalf for the two upcoming Hobbit movies?". He answers: "Encouragingly, Peter and Fran Walsh have told me they couldn't imagine The Hobbit without their original Gandalf. Their confidence hasn't yet been confirmed by the director Guillermo del Toro but I am keeping my diary free for 2009!"
Del Toro is planning two films based on The Hobbit. The first will follow the plot of the children's book, in which Bilbo Baggins sets out with a band of dwarves to reclaim their treasure from a dragon called Smaug. The second film, according to an outline by Jackson, will cover the 80 years between Baggins' triumphant return and the beginning of the Lord of the Rings. The budget is projected to be around $150m (£78m) for the two films and will be released in 2010 and 2011.
McKellen portrayed Gandalf in the three Lord of the Rings movies, one of the biggest box-office successes of all time, and earned a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his role in 2002. The Hobbit, first published in 1937, describes the adventures of Bilbo Baggins as he joins Gandalf and a group of dwarves in a quest to reclaim a dragon's treasure. During the quest, he discovers the powerful trinket that goes on to play a central role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.